Writers On the Fly: Alison Bechdel

you a question I'm very commonly get asked is what comes first the writing or the drawing and it's a very it's always complicated for me to explain that and I find that sometimes I can't really explain it without showing pictures because that's how my mind works I have to make things visual but I will try and do it verbally and they're ready I don't it might look to an external observer as if I am writing first then drawing because I do sit at my computer and I write everything out before I actually put pen to paper but what I'm doing at the computer is writing in a two dimensional field I'm writing in a drawing program so it's not like a word processing program where I'm just typing across the page but I'm actually moving text around on the page designing the page placing it images or sketches and moving them around so that I have a sequential story being told on the page so even though that's not actual drawing with a pencil it feels to me like a kind of drawing so my writing and drawing are kind of mixed up together that's the answer my office where I work or spend most of my life it's in the basement of my house I'm so happy to be able to work in my own and it's very quiet I live in the country so it's just woods and very quiet and I love it that's an interesting question um well I remember once I was on a deadline I had cartoons that I needed to I had a book deadline and I had to finish all this drawing for it and I also had to go attend a big outdoor music festival the Michigan women's music festival which was this big lesbian gathering that well it still happens but this was many years ago and I would go there to sell my comic books I did this lesbian comic strip for many years and I would sell my books and t-shirts and stuff so I had to go do that but I also had to draw so at night in this very dark dank tent with a lantern and mosquitoes swarming around me I would have to do my inking that was probably the most extreme circumstance I guess I'd have to pick a children's book that affected me very strongly as a child and that was Harriet the Spy which is kind of a book about being a writer shai expound a little more in that I've listed read that book 30 times as a kid and it's about this little girl who keeps a diary and she doesn't let anyone else see it she's always rating notes on everyone around her and people she she has a spy route that she goes on after school and takes notes on all the people who live in her neighborhood and I just love this idea but then her friends somebody like gets ahold of her notebook and they all the kids read what she's been writing about them and they all turn on her and it's she has to go to a child psychologist I always wanted to go to a child psychologist and you know that was a very formative book for me and I did grow up to become a writer I already charged my batteries by going out and walking in the woods around my house I can just step out the door and I'm in the woods I have a brook that goes by I love to follow the brook and explore that it does it I mean I know to recharge batteries as a kind of expression everyone uses but I just my girlfriend just sent me a video like 10 minutes ago of the brook just a nice little thing showing of that the brook was still there and I felt immensely recharged by just looking at this video so it's very it's very very soothing and also I feel like I often solve storytelling problems walking along the brook because you know it has this order it has this it's always moving forward and you always want to see what's around the next end there's the suspense to it that I find inspiring I I know I I tend to use a lot of self-deprecating disclaimers that I am suddenly noticing and working very hard to eradicate from my writing as well as my speech but I you know just like apologizing or I'm not thinking many examples I'm sorry see I'm doing it yes there is i actually today and in my talk that I gave I I spoke of memoir as a kind of religious practice for me because it involves a a leap of faith on my part that my life is a meaningful story I don't believe intellectually that my life has any meaning whatsoever but it's like Pascal's wager I find life more pleasurable if I believe that it has meaning therefore it choose to believe that it has meaning and to write about that meaning so that's more religious than spiritual spiritually I feel like as a memoirist what I'm what I'm doing is observing my own self and as minut of detail as I possibly can and sometimes that feels like just so monstrously selfish and self-absorbed that I can't even it's just nauseate ant bear myself but I do it I do it because I feel like myself is a a way out of my individual self that it's a way to connect with other people and so in that sense it has a more spiritual dimension to well I guess I would say a writer is anyone who is not just experiencing their life but observing it and observing it with something to say about it so that probably is like most members of the human race maybe I should qualify it a little more not only are they observing it not only do they have something to say about it but they're actually going to the considerable trouble of sending it in some form or other

11 thoughts on “Writers On the Fly: Alison Bechdel

  1. Ah god yes, I love Harriet the Spy! I must have read it six times in a row when I was a kid. So impressed by everything Bechdel does. It's must-read kid's lit.

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